Two YMA staff with tie dye shirts
May 28, 2021

6 reasons to become a camp counselor at the Y

Working at the Y as a camp counselor is so much more than a summer job: it’s a life-changing experience that prepares young adults aged 16 and older for any career while developing the leadership skills, confidence, and compassion needed to thrive in all aspects of life.

Beyond earning income, camp counselors make friendships, memories, and summer magic happen for youth in their communities. 

We asked our summer camp  staff to give us six good reasons to become a camp counselor at the Y. Here’s what they had to say:

  1. Summer camp changes kids’ lives. From kindergarteners experiencing their first summer camp to older kids delving into their hobbies and passions, camp counselors play a formative role in campers’ childhoods.

    “Our campers look up to our counselors so much,” said Bobby Thomas, Executive Director of YMCA Camp Duncan and YMCA Camp Pinewood. “They want to be just like them—from wearing the same camp shirts to being able to cannonball into the pool the same way. Y camp counselors are friendly, fun, and open to trying new things, and over time, campers emulate these same wonderful qualities.”
  2. Summer camp changes counselors’ lives, too! For Katie Trchka, School Age Manager at the Elmhurst YMCA, working as a counselor at YMCA Camp Tecumseh in Indiana as a teenager shaped her whole outlook on life, service, and being her fullest self.

    “To serve is to love,” Trchka said. “As counselors, we put aside our own fears, worries, and wants to focus on our campers and give them the best camp experience possible. Being a camp counselor has shaped how I create authentic relationships, how I interact with people, and how I embrace my weirdness. I learned it was okay to be different at camp!”
  3. The leadership skills you’ll learn as a camp counselor will prepare you for your career, no matter what industry you choose. While Thomas and Trchka, now both camp leaders at the Y, got their start as counselors, they both emphasize how applicable camp skills are to any field of work.

    “There are former counselors who are leaders of Fortune 500 companies and nonprofits alike,” Thomas said. “If a former camp counselor looks at your resume and sees camp experience, they can relate! The unique challenges that come with working at camp set counselor alumni apart, no matter your career path.”

    Meanwhile, Trchka describes being a camp counselor as “the hardest job you will ever love,” adding that counselors learn adaptability, communication across age groups, and critical thinking skills every day. In her own words: “If you can keep a group of children safe and happy, you can do anything!”
  4. You’ll spend your summer in a supportive, inclusive environment. No two campers are alike, and the Y of Metro Chicago’s camps represent the diversity of families throughout the Chicagoland area, united under the Y’s core values of caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility.

    “Everyone can be a camper,” Thomas said. “Kids from all cultures, communities, and experiences come to camp, some with several bags for a one-week stay and others with nothing more than a backpack. We all learn so much from one another by listening to each other’s stories and building genuine relationships.

    Trchka added, “Kids are coming to us from so many backgrounds and situations, but kindness is universal and that’s what sets the camp community apart.”
  5. While camp counselors serve as mentors for youth, they receive mentorship as well, working alongside knowledgeable, experienced Y staff. As a camp counselor, you’ll gain hands-on experience learning from camp veterans like Trchka and Thomas. Generations of Y campers and counselors can attest: summer camp love spans generations!

    “I’ve made camp my entire livelihood; I eat, sleep, and breathe it,” Trchka said. “The people I’ve met at Y summer camps definitely solidified my desire to work with youth in a recreational capacity.”

    “I started as a junior counselor at the same Y camp I spent every summer from 7-17,” Thomas recalled. “As I grew and matured through college, I worked each summer as a counselor, eventually taking on management positions. I landed my first full-time job at the same camp right out of college and have never looked back.”
  6. Last, but certainly not least: You’ll have tons of fun! Both Thomas and Trchka agree that fun and laughter are synonymous with camp. With songs, costumes, inside jokes, and countless activities, summer camp brings a dynamic experience to campers and counselors alike!

    “Seeing how creatively our campers work together and hearing so much laughter is the highlight of my summer,” Trchka said. “From being a camper to working full-time leading the Elmhurst Y’s camp program, it’s the fun, memories, and lessons that bring me back year after year.”

​To lend your unique talents to the Y’s summer camps, visit our careers page and apply today!